The day she splintered an oak inches away from Sasuke's head was the first time Itachi bothered to take note of her.

Oh, he had seen her before. Sasuke's little pink haired teammate who he had seen cry more times than he cared to remember; her and the loud-mouthed brat who held the fox demon behind his navel. It had been years since he'd seen them interact as a team, though, with Kakashi taking a personal interest in one particular student and the remaining two slipping away to other forms of instruction. Besides a passing notice of who his brother was spending his time with, Itachi hadn't particularly cared about his teammates except that they kept Sasuke alive.

But the way she shattered the tree made him look at her. Her face had reflected a challenge, her posture demanded attention from someone she obviously still held in high esteem. Itachi had been interested in his brother's reaction of wide-eyed surprise and had made a note about her obvious improvement. It appeared that his brother might stay alive a little longer than he had suspected without his help after all.

It was another two years before he bothered to pay any actual attention to her and then it hadn't been his choice. For some reason, the Hokage had decided to send her pink-haired apprentice on a mission with his team. Forcing him to deal with her whether he wanted to or not.

"For practice," Tsunade had said a twist to the corner of her lips that Itachi hadn't particularly liked. He could have argued that ANBU missions were not places for pink haired girls, even if they could splinter a tree with nothing but chakra and their knuckles. Little girls who couldn't handle themselves wouldn't come home, and the Hokage knew that.

It wasn't until Shisui was down and poisoned that he learned the real reason behind Haruno Sakura's involvement in the mission. And it wasn't until they were all home, and somewhat in one piece, that he realized she had sparked a faint, niggling curiosity in the back of his mind.

Despite having just come in, Sakura refused to just sit down until she had made certain, personally, that every member of her team was going to be fine. She was a medic, and it was a matter of personal pride that her team came home safe.

The poison Shisui had received was rare, iron-based, and she had been forced to perform a very specialized, very dangerous procedure in the field. She had extracted the majority of the poison, but she was concerned about the remnants remaining in his blood stream. She'd handed the poison sample she'd kept over to Shizune and was planning to head to the labs to help with the antidote as soon as she had checked on her remaining two team members.

Inuzuka Hana was relaxing; her dog curled by the foot of her bed. The jounin tracker had pushed herself to the limit and was suffering from mild chakra exhaustion, but Sakura's scan proved that was all that was wrong with her.

"How are you feeling, Hana-san?" Sakura asked.

Hana grinned at her, "Just fine, medic. I've got your nurses all scurrying to bring me my favorite flavor of jello. You'd better go give the Captain the clear to go before he burns down my curtain with his glare."

Sakura rolled her eyes. "As Captain, I'm sure Uchiha-san appreciates that I'm following procedure," she pitched her voice to be heard. "Inured shinobi are to be handled in the order of their severity, and I want to personally make sure my team is fit."

She winked at Hana and lowered her voice, "It has nothing to do with running us for two days straight without rest on our way to the check point."

Hana's laughter followed Sakura around the curtain as she steeled herself to face the intense gaze of Uchiha Itachi. She had always considered Itachi to be a more intense version of his brother, harder and rougher around the edges. The past few days she had learned just how sharp those edges could be, but she had also learned why so many ANBU finagled their schedules to be included with his unit when there was an opening.

He really was brilliant.

There was no expression on his face as she pulled back the curtain. It had taken her a few days to pick up the knack, but she'd learned to judge his eyes instead of his jaw or mouth to guess his mood. His eyes were his most dangerous weapon and he let them do most of his talking. She hadn't been able to put her finger on if it was a habit of his, or an intimidation tactic. Knowing the captain in front of her, she figured it was a bit of both.

"Captain," she'd picked up the form of address on their third day out, and he had yet to correct her. Somehow, calling him Uchiha-sama seemed to be admitting defeat in these conditions. Here she was on even footing, if not better. "Let's take a look at you."

Those eyes narrowed a bit as she studied the line that had once been a cut along his temple, and her fast but thorough scan showed that while his chakra levels were low, they weren't nearly as low as Hana's had been.

"You should be fine to leave in the morning." Sakura informed him as she jotted down a few notes on his chart.

"I am capable of leaving now."

"That's probably true," Sakura said without looking up. "Except for the fact that we're dealing with an unknown poison, you pushed yourself almost to exhaustion and that if I keep you overnight I can bully Shinsu into staying where we put him as well."

"Is that so?" Itachi's voice was cool and if she hadn't been looking for it she would never have heard the faint bite to his words.

"We both know if that if you bothered to rest between missions, your chakra reserves never would have gotten this low in the first place. Tsunade's actually been quite concerned with your health," Sakura told him, lowering her lashes to hide her eyes. "She thinks she might have been pushing you to hard. Falling over would just prove her point, don't you think?"

The vague threat had those dark eyes narrowing even further before he wiped away all expression from his features.


"I'll tell your family they can see you in a few moments." Sakura promised him as she set the clipboard down. Leaning forward she sharpened her smile. "If you consider pulling a Kakashi on me, I'll have Tsunade take you off the roster for the next month."

His flat expression was answer enough and she nodded before turning. "Have a nice night, Captain."

Itachi watched his brother's teammate turn to walk away. It seemed as if she as if she had no intention of checking herself into the hospital for the night. Ignoring her instructions, he switched to the basic form of the sharingan in ordered to get a better read on her chakra signature. It appeared that although it was significantly depleted, she still had just less than half her chakra left.

Perhaps this was a result of the chakra control he occasionally heard Sasuke muttering about?

Itachi was well aware that the mednin in front of him had developed a considerable amount of chakra, but it was still far less than his own. To be able to manage every task with precisely the amount of chakra needed and no more was indeed… efficient.


She paused, and turned to glance at him over her shoulder.

He stared at her and noted that she did not hesitate to look him in the eyes, even with his sharingan active. Her only response was a frown, and she opened her mouth in what would inevitably be a reproof, but he cut her off. "How is Shisui?"

Her frown deepened. "I told you before. I removed most of the poison from his system. Even if discovering the antidote for the poison takes several days, he will still live long enough to take it. But I don't think it will take that long. I'm on my way to the labs now, and if this poison stumps me for more than a day, Tsunade-shishou will have my head. Shisui will be fine, Captain. You won't be, if you don't turn off that sharingan."

Itachi let the sharingan flicker out of existence. Haruno had the upper hand for as long as he was in the hospital, and he was accepting of this fact. For now. Better to let her have her way now, when it was a simple thing to give than to push her temper when she clearly had the advantage of her teacher's ear. She wouldn't always have the leverage to hold him.

Closing his eyes, he leaned back against his pillow. The door to his room opened and closed quietly, and only then did he let his mask drop. No, his brother's little teammate wouldn't always have the advantage, and he would enjoy pushing until he was satisfied that he had whatever it was about her that had caught his attention categorized and forgotten.

AN: This is an idea that grabbed hold of us and we just had to write it. Due credit all of the non-massacre fics for our inspiration. We hope you all enjoy it!